6 routes · Gravel Biking
NC-197 -> Paint Fork Gravel Loop
A beautiful ride north of Asheville mixing quiet country roads and an unpaved state highway.
Gravel Biking Difficult
- 77 km
- 1.3 km
- 1.3 km
- 5-6 hrs
- Low Point
- 633 m
- High Point
- 1.3 km
Half-gravel, half-pavement, this loop is a local favorite and a great ride no matter the time of year. It mixes quiet, paved county roads with an unpaved state highway lined with roadside waterfalls and some views. It can be ridden in either direction and accessed from several cities north of Asheville. Some riders have even tacked it onto this loop near Asheville for an epic day in the saddle.
Since the main loop passes through Burnsville, this ride is mapped from a shopping center near downtown. You could also begin from Weaverville, Mars Hill, or anywhere between. There are plenty of other options in town to park, including Ingles and the downtown square. If you're planning on a post-ride brew, consider parking near Homeplace Beer Company, the only local brewery, and one of the best on this side of the state.
What makes this ride great is its tour of NC-197 just south of Burnsville. The route follows the state highway, or you could loop around on Bolens Creek Road. Bolens Creek also happens to be the start of the Black Mountain Crest Trail, the highest and arguably most epic ridgeline traverse in the east - perfect for hiking or trail running!
Between Pensacola and Barnardsville, the state highway turns to well-maintained gravel. It is open year-round to vehicles and includes countless roadside camping opportunities, plus a handful of waterfalls along the way. The gravel could be tackled on tires as narrow as 32's, but it's not unheard of to see someone on a road bike with 25's or 28's. The sweet spot is something in the mid-30's, but not too large given the mileage of the route.
If you're looking to turn this into an overnight trip, consider camping along NC-197. There are no developed campgrounds or facilities along the route, but there are several gas stations and grocery stores if you need food, water, or supplies.